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Introductory Course to Postgraduate Life

REAL LIFE 101: (ALMOST) SURVIVING YOUR FIRST YEAR OUT OF COLLEGE by Susan Kleinman, New York: Master Media Limited, 200 pp., $9.95

SO off you march, diploma in hand, ready to face the world.

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Everyone has been telling you that college would be the best four years of your life. As far as you're concerned, it was fine, even ``a blast'' at times. But all you've been able to think about is moving on (especially around finals). You are really ready to take that infamous next step ... ``the real world.'' You've passed the classes and paid your dues. Graduation is over and you're no longer a student, you're a real person.

So now what?

Whether you are first choice for the best management training program in New York or just beginning to pound that proverbial pavement, you are probably a little apprehensive. You are concerned about how the decisions you make will affect your future life, let alone what your college friends are going to say about it.

Where many go wrong is allowing themselves to believe that they have to endure this period alone. You don't. In fact, Susan Kleinman was kind enough to poll everyday individuals, like you and me, that had just endured their first year ``out there.''

The results of this poll can be found in her book, ``Real Life 101, (Almost) Surviving Your First Year Out of College.'' Being a recent grad herself, Kleinman has called upon her own experience, the results of her polls, stories from friends and relations, and a few helpful tidbits from various professionals. The result is a textbook approach to a phase of life all students must eventually face.

Kleinman shares success and failure stories from all over the country, from all areas of work. There is particular emphasis on ``the corporate scene.'' How to play the games of office politics, the pros and cons of an office romance, asking for a raise, etc. The scenarios she presents are helpful because they are ones that people have gone through. They are ones that you could easily see yourself in. People surmount unbelievable odds; people fall flat on their faces.

Kleinman becomes a buddy who shares both humiliating and rewarding experiences. She tells of the struggles people endure from apartment hunting to creating a new social circle. As a result, you no longer feel alone. Many other small fish are in the same big pond. They have done just fine. So can you.

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The book is not weighed down with opinion after opinion from self-proclaimed experts in a particular field. We all heard from enough of those in our college years. But when the author does offer tips that are out of her range, she calls on a professional.

For example, every office situation is unique. Figuring out the appropriate office protocol can be vital. To lend a little insight into what has been termed the ``corporate culture,'' Kleinman calls on cultural anthropologist Steve Barnett, who defines corporate culture as ``the rules, values, and symbols that underlie and determine how corporate decisions are made and how everyday life in a company is experienced.''

In her poll, Kleinman also discovered that just about no one, whether a Wall Street trainee or a Peace Corps volunteer, saves any significant amount of their salary in their first year out. Here she calls on financial planner Judith Briles to briefly touch on the reasons one should be prepared with a little nest egg and the most painless ways to accrue some savings.

For the most part, ``Real Life 101'' offers common sense advice, backed up by personal experience. One might ask why, if it is just common sense, would I need this book? Speaking for myself, brainstorms originating from common sense were usually the first to be dismissed. They were too simple; surely they couldn't be the appropriate solution. Wrong! And it is the humorous analogies called upon that make this point.

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